December 30, 2006

Bowl Viewer's Guide - Jan. 1-8

BYU, Hawaii and their small conference brethren have wrapped up impressive bowl wins, but now that the calendar has turned it's time to return to the kiddie table.

Boise State, this time, can stay with the grown-ups.

The final week of bowl season will feature regular appearances by Michigan, Auburn, Nebraska, Oklahoma, USC and of course Joe Paterno.

New Year's Day starts off with good ol' fashioned conference bragging rights at stake between the Big Ten and SEC in the Outback and Capital One bowls, before giving way to a classic Big Ten vs. Pac-10 matchup in the Rose Bowl.

But the days leading up to the Jan. 8 national championship game will have their share of surprises with Boise State and Wake Forest in BCS bowl games.

There will be a change of pace, too, with how this year's biggest bowl games are televised. Viewers of the BCS bowls this year will get a different look with Fox televising the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar bowls leading up to the BCS Championship Game.

Here is a look at the games from New Year's Day through the BCS Championship Game. (All times Eastern; Click here for a complete bowl TV schedule)

Monday, Jan. 1
Outback Bowl
No. 17 Tennessee (9-3) vs. Penn State (8-4)
Video preview
Site: Tampa, Fla.
Time: 11 a.m.
Network: ESPN
Announcers: Mike Patrick, Todd Blackledge, Holly Rowe
Why to watch: The first football game of 2007 could become a defensive struggle. Penn State's top 15 defense will match up against the Vols' air attack, which was revived by offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe. Tennessee returns to bowl season after a one-year layoff.
Who to watch, Tennessee: Wide receiver Robert Meachem
Cutcliffe has often been credited with turning around the career of quarterback Erik Ainge, but what about Meachem? All the first-team All-American has done is set the school record for receiving yards in a season (1,265) with 11 touchdowns. The former five-star recruit if finally living up to his potential.
Who to watch, Penn State: Linebacker Paul Posluszny
Posluszny ended his final season playing the best he had all year. With his final game coming against one of the worst running teams in the country, Posluszny should leave Linebacker U on top.
Cotton Bowl
No. 10 Auburn (10-2) vs. No. 22 Nebraska (9-4)
Site: Dallas
Time: 11:30 a.m.
Network: Fox
Announcers: Pat Summeral, Brian Baldinger, Krista Voda
Why to watch: Nebraska returns to its highest profile bowl game since the 2002 Rose Bowl loss to national champion Miami.
Who to watch, Auburn: Defensive end Quentin Groves
Groves leads the Tigers' standout defense with 9.5 sacks and will try to disrupt Nebraska's West Coast passing attack and emerging running back Brandon Jackson.
Who to watch, Nebraska: Quarterback Zac Taylor
The senior is coming off one of the worst games of his career in the Big 12 Championship Game against Oklahoma. He will be hard-pressed to deliver a major win for coach Bill Callahan and the Cornhuskers.
Gator Bowl
No. 13 West Virginia (10-2) vs. Georgia Tech (9-4)
Site: Jacksonville, Fla.
Time: 1 p.m.
Network: CBS
Announcers: Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson, Tracy Wolfson
Why to watch: Expect big plays galore with Georgia Tech's Calvin Johnson and West Virginia's Steve Slaton and Pat White. The Yellow Jackets return to Jacksonville hoping for better results than in the ACC Championship Game when they didn't score a touchdown.
Who to watch, West Virginia: Quarterback Pat White
He returns after missing the regular-season finale against Rutgers with a sprained ankle. How will he react to the different looks in Jon Tenuta's defense?
Who to watch, Georgia Tech: Quarterback Taylor Bennett
Forced into duty after starter Reggie Ball was ruled ineligible, Bennett will now guide the offense and try to get the ball to Calvin Johnson.
Capital One Bowl
No. 6 Wisconsin (11-1) vs. No. 12 Arkansas (10-3)
Site: Orlando, Fla.
Time: 1 p.m.
Network: ABC
Announcers: Brad Nessler, Bob Griese, Paul Maguire, Erin Andrews
Why to watch: No bowl has a better running back matchup of 2007 Heisman contenders, Darren McFadden of Arkansas and Freshman of the Year P.J. Hill of Wisconsin should carry the ball early and often.
Who to watch, Wisconsin: Offensive tackle Joe Thomas
The future first-round draft pick will end his college career blocking for Hill and trying to protect John Stocco. Thomas will have his hands full with the tandem of Antwain Robinson and Jamaal Anderson (18.5 sacks combined).
Who to watch, Arkansas: Running back Darren McFadden
Remember what the last Heisman trophy runner-up did in his bowl game? McFadden wasn't fully healthy against Florida in the SEC title game, but will return against one of the stingiest defenses in the Big Ten.
Rose Bowl
No. 3 Michigan (11-1) vs. No. 8 USC (10-2)
Video preview
Site: Pasadena, Calif.
Time: 5 p.m.
Network: ABC
Announcers: Brent Musberger, Bob Davie, Kirk Herbstreit, Lisa Salters, Bonnie Bernstein
Why to watch: After all the national championship game controversy, the Rose Bowl gets its traditional Big Ten vs. Pac-10 matchup. It should be a close contest with two teams that were in the national title hunt until the final weekend.
Who to watch, Michigan: Defensive end Lamarr Woodley
UCLA provided a blueprint for how to stop USC in the Bruins' 13-9 win. Woodley, the Lombardi Award winner, will try to lead the Michigan defense in producing a similar effort.
Who to watch, USC: Quarterback John David Booty
No team has been better at stopping the run than Michigan, meaning Booty will likely have to find Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith in the passing game to keep the offense moving.
Fiesta Bowl
No. 7 Oklahoma (11-2) vs. No. 9 Boise State (12-0)
Site: Glendale, Ariz.
Time: 8:30 p.m.
Network: Fox
Announcers: Thom Brenneman, Barry Alvarez, Charles Davis, Chris Meyers
Why to watch: The last team outside the big six conferences to play in a BCS game, Utah, won in a romp over Pittsburgh. Don't expect the same result this time. Boise State is looking to prove it can play with the big boys after an embarrassing 48-13 loss to Georgia in 2005.
Who to watch, Oklahoma: Running back Adrian Peterson
The best running back in college football returns after breaking his collarbone against Iowa State. Will this be the last time we see Peterson in a Sooners uniform?
Who to watch, Boise State: Running back Ian Johnson
Johnson placed eighth in the Heisman voting after running for 1,613 yards and 24 touchdowns, but he has yet to be tested by a defense of Oklahoma's caliber.
Tuesday, Jan. 2
Orange Bowl
No. 5 Louisville (11-1) vs. No. 15 Wake Forest (11-2)
Time: 4:30 p.m.
Network: Fox
Announcers: Matt Vasgersian, Pat Haden, Terry Donahue, Laura Omkin
Why to watch: An unlikely pairing for the Orange Bowl, with both teams making their first BCS bowl appearances. Wake Forest will look to cap its surprise season with a win over Big East power Louisville.
Who to watch, Louisville: Quarterback Brian Brohm
Louisville's offensive leader will go up against a Wake Forest defense that has forced two or more interceptions in five of the last six games (14 total).
Who to watch, Wake Forest: Free safety Josh Gattis
With 73 tackles, five interceptions and seven pass break ups, Gattis will be charged with keeping receivers Mario Urrutia and Harry Douglas from going far in the passing game.
Wednesday, Jan. 3
Sugar Bowl
No. 4 LSU (10-2) vs. No. 11 Notre Dame (10-2)
Site: New Orleans
Time: 8:30 p.m.
Network: Fox
Announcers: Kenny Albert, Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long
Why to watch: The Sugar Bowl returns to New Orleans after moving to Atlanta in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Notre Dame seeks its first win over a top-five team after losing to Michigan and USC already this year.
Who to watch, LSU: Safety LaRon Landry
The hard-hitting senior has been the top safety in the SEC since early in his career. He'll wrap up his collegiate career matched up against Notre Dame's potent passing game.
Who to watch, Notre Dame: Quarterback Brady Quinn
For all of his collegiate accolades, the senior Quinn (and fellow senior wide receiver Jeff Samardzija) is still seeking a signature win over a top team in his time at Notre Dame.
Saturday, Jan. 6
International Bowl
Western Michigan (8-4) vs. Cincinnati (7-5)
Site: Toronto
Time: Noon
Network: ESPN
Announcers: John Saunders, Craig James, Doug Flutie, Todd Harris
Why to watch: The first bowl game played outside of the United States since the 1937 Rhumba Bowl between Auburn and Villanova in Havana, Cuba.. Cincinnati will play its first game under Brian Kelly, who led Central Michigan to a win over Western Michigan earlier this year.
Who to watch, Western Michigan: Linebacker Ameer Ismail
Western Michigan's stout defense is led by Ismail, who had a MAC record 17 sacks in 2006.
Who to watch, Cincinnati: Linebacker Kevin McCullough
Under former coach Mark Dantonio, who left for Michigan State, Cincinnati played tough defense. McCullough (68 tackles, 13.5 TFL) will try to carry the defense under new coach Brian Kelly.
Sunday, Jan. 7
Ohio (9-3) vs. Southern Miss (8-5)
Site: Mobile, Ala.
Time: 8 p.m.
Network: ESPN
Announcers: Gary Thorne, Andre Ware, Rob Stone
Why to watch: Warm up for the national championship game with a matchup between the Conference USA and MAC runners-up. Maybe the schedule-makers meant for this game to be on Dec. 7, not Jan. 7.
Who to watch, Ohio: Running back Kalvin McRae
The junior has run for 100 yards in seven of the last eight games. He has 12 touchdowns in that span.
Who to watch, Southern Miss: Running back Damion Fletcher Fletcher led all true freshmen with 1,330 yards, a Conference USA freshman record. He added nine touchdowns.
Monday, Jan. 8
BCS Championship Game
No. 1 Ohio State (12-0) vs. No. 2 Florida (12-1)
Site: Glendale, Ariz.
Time: 8 p.m.
Network: Fox
Announcers: Thom Brenneman, Barry Alvarez, Charles Davis, Chris Meyers
Why to watch: Florida has won its share of close calls on the way to the national championship game. Of all teams, Ohio State - which won the national championship in 2002 after a similar season - knows how deceiving those close games can be.
Who to watch, Ohio State: Quarterback Troy Smith
Smith has made a career of winning the big game, and this is the biggest. He'll hope to stay off the list of Heisman Trophy winners that have gone on to lose championship games. Since 2000, that list includes Eric Crouch, Jason White and Reggie Bush.
Who to watch, Florida: Safety Reggie Nelson
Playing with a heavy heart after the death of his mother in December, Nelson will look to have the game of his career against Ohio State receivers Ted Ginn and Anthony Gonzalez

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